Mary Todd Lincoln Culture of Clothing In Chicago

Reproductions of Mary Todd Lincoln’s dresses by Mira Couture at the Culture Of Clothing Event at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago
The Mary Todd Lincoln “Culture of Clothing” presentation on Tuesday November 12, 2012 took place at the Driehaus Museum Chicago. This event was developed by the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and featured Mary Lincoln’s fashions as a homemaker, a first lady and a widow in mourning after the loss of three sons and a husband. Mira Horoszowski of Mira Couture produced new versions of the four Lincoln dresses. Women’s roles in American society changed significantly in the second half of the 19th century, propelled by war, industrialization and women’s own drive for equality. Their fashions changed, too, which Mary Lincoln’s clothing reflected.
Mira Horoszowskiwas of Mira Couture with models
Mira entertained us with her passion of this huge undertaking. It took “months and months” to complete the 4 gowns. She could not sleep and kept thinking about the project. She was thrilled to find the exact same black Chantilly lace for the white gown and  found it from what she believes had to be the same place in Paris as the original. She decided to make the dresses an average size so they could be worn for presentations such as these, even though Mary Todd Lincoln was very tiny, even though she got a little bigger with age. Some of the models have blond hair were told not to worry – they made wigs with black hair. Mira made us laugh about driving around with the four wigs on mannequin heads bobbing in the back seat of her car!
Details of the White Silk and Black Lace Gown (February 5, 1862) reproduction that Mary Todd Lincoln wore to host a ball to celebrate the completion of the Executive Mansion renovations.
Details of the Black Silk with Trim dress 91864) worn for the mourning of her brother Levi and continuing mourning of son Willie.
Justice Anne M. Burke, Honorary Co-Chair, welcomed guest to the event. She is a fashion icon in her own right, and wore a beautiful suit by Mira Couture.
Mira Horoszowski with a model in the Purple Velvet with White Piping gown (December 1861 – January 1862)
Guests mingled with “Mary Lincolns.” This Mary Lincoln is wearing the Aqua Two-Piece Evening Gown (March 1861). Historical Note: This original gown may have been sold at the 1867 Old Clothes Sale in New York.
The Richard H. Driehause Museum was perfect for the event and is an amazing place to visit.
Mary Todd Lincoln was portrayed by Maria Bakalis. She has performed internationally with her original plays.
Elisabeth Keckley was portrayed by Kathryn Harris, Director for Library Services at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.
Models in the new versions of the dresses and jewelry mingled with visitors and answered questions about the clothing. Actresses portraying Mary Todd Lincoln and Lincoln’s African-American seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley were there “in person” to discuss their work and women’s lives in that era. Mary Todd Lincoln told us that she really had a bit of a shopping problem and was extravagant, but she was misunderstood. She was a forward-thinking woman and may have been too modern for her day, and she had to mourn the loss of her brother, two sons and her husband. The “Culture of Clothing” events are part of a year-long look at Mary Lincoln’s life and the role of 19th century women. Other events included two re-trials of the former first lady on insanity charges and a panel discussion that compared 19th and 21st century mental health laws, treatment and attitudes. Tickets are available at for the November 19th “Culture of Clothing” event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 8:30. Tickets are $25 per person. – Carol Calacci Photos: Second City Style

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